Thomas Jeffrey Hanks turns a young 56 this week. The two-time Academy Award winner was born on July 9th, 1956 in Concord, California. He studied theatre at Chabot College before transferring over to California State University. After moving to New York City, Hanks made his film debut in a low-budget horror film titled He Knows You’re Alone (1980). The following year he earned a lead role on the ABC television pilot of Bosom Buddies, where he played an advertising man who (along with Peter Scolari) dressed as a woman in order to stay in an affordable all-female hotel. The show only ran for two seasons, but gave Hanks enough attention to move on into larger roles in movies.

In 1984, Ron Howard – who had worked with Hanks on an episode of Happy Days – cast him to play the lead in Splash, his romantic comedy about a man who falls in love with a mermaid. Splash was a hit at the box office, furthering Hanks exposure. A string of silly comedies ensued for the young actor, including Bachelor Party, Volunteers, The Money Pit, and Dragnet. In 1986, he showed he could handle a more serious role, working with Jackie Gleason on the father/son drama Nothing in Common. But it wasn’t until he starred in Penny Marshall’s fantasy-based romantic comedy, Big, that Hanks became an A-list leading man, and his first Academy Award nomination (Lead Actor) followed with it. However, with success comes failure, and Hanks was not immune. Films like The Burbs (1989), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), and the disastrous The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) were just a small setback in the incredible career that would blossom with the new decade.

Hanks returned to the promising talent he displayed earlier in his career in A League of Their Own (1992), playing the iconic Jimmy Dugan, a former player turned manager of a professional women’s baseball team. He stole the show as the alcohol-abusing coach, and delivered one of the most famous lines of his career when he declared “There’s no crying in baseball!” His next film was the romantic dramedy, Sleepless in Seattle, directed by the late Nora Ephron, in which he played a widower struggling to move on with his life. Both of these films were successful critically and financially, and put Hanks in position for the performance of his career.

In 1993 Hanks starred in Philadelphia, for which he won his first Academy Award playing a gay lawyer dying of AIDS who sues his former employers for wrongful termination. Hanks lost a reported 35 pounds and had his hair thinned in order to appear more diminished, and gave one of the more touching Oscar speeches upon accepting the award, acknowledging both his high school drama teacher and a former classmate that were gay. The following year, Hanks starred in the role he is almost certain to be best remembered for in Forrest Gump, and joined Spencer Tracy as the only men to win back-to-back Lead Actor Oscars. He continued to string together great performances in just about every role he took on, and was arguably the finest actor of the 1990s. Films like Apollo 13 (1995), Toy Story (1995), That Thing You Do! (which he also directed; 1996), Saving Private Ryan (for which he received his fourth Oscar nomination; 1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), and The Green Mile (1999) help solidify such a bold statement, and show just how talented and versatile an actor he is.

As the decade rolled over, Hanks showed no signs of slowing, receiving his fifth (and most recent) Oscar nomination for Castaway (2000), in which he played a FedEx executive stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashed. The following year he helped direct and produce the Emmy-winning Band of Brothers, a World War II-based HBO mini-series. 2002 was a busy year for Hanks. Not only did he give two great – though incredibly different – performances in Road to Perdition and Catch Me if You Can, but he also produced the hit comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, starring Nia Vardalos. That same year he became the youngest ever recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, and in 2005 he was elected Vice President of AMPAS.

His upcoming work includes a role in the new Wachowski Brothers film, Cloud Atlas, which is due out later this year (hopefully), as well as playing Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks (alongside Emma Thompson), and reprising his roles of Robert Langdon (The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons) in The Lost Symbol, and Sheriff Woody (Toy Story 1-3) in Toy Story 4 (damn that they are making this film, btw).

My Circuit 3 for Tom Hanks is:

  1. Forrest Gump (1994)
  2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  3. Philadelphia (1993)

What is your Circuit 3? You can view Hanks’ entire filmography here.

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Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Lost, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.